Posted by: David Stewart | September 18, 2012

London Dark Run

For the very few times I am in London on business, I am grateful to my friend Dirk for recommending the Queensway area as a place to stay. Close to tube stations, one stop away from Paddington Station where you can catch the express train to the airport, and across the street from great running.

Take this morning, for example.

I was awake at 2AM and unable to go back to sleep, as usual. When it rolled around to 5:30, I broke out of the hotel and crossed the street to Kensington Gardens, a large park with a royal’s house on it. I got to the gate just as it was being unlocked by a uniformed chap, and it dawned on me that I forgot my headlamp in the hotel.

I could easily have turned back and picked it up, since mid-September Britain is very dark at that hour. “Drat – oh well” I thought and kept going.

The royal family owns Kensington Palace, which was to my right as I ran south across the park. Its windows were glowing warmly behind a statue of Victoria. To the left is the Round Pond, which looked white in the pitch darkness. I picked up my feet to avoid potholes, and went at a good clip to keep warm in the early Autumn coolness.

After about a mile going south, you hit the end of Kensington Gardens, so go left for about another mile. After a bit, you run between the Royal Albert Hall and the Albert Memorial. Soon after Kensington Gardens transitions to Hyde Park. This was once the private game reserve for the Royals; I believe Henry the 8th hunted deer, but today it’s actually a bit better lit than its neighboring park.

Rounding past Hyde Park Corner and returning back to Kensington Palace is about a 4 mile loop. After two miles of warm-up, I did about 5K of tempo running today, breath coming hard as I charged past charming fountains and bridle paths. My schedule had me down for 7 miles, so I did another loop of Kensington Gardens and a little more along the roads to make up a full 7.

A city’s parks are its lungs and soul. Like Lumphini Park in Bangkok or Central Park in New York, these parks make a fine place for an early morning run.

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